If you’re a restaurateur in Española, you’re either elated or furious. Consider Mayor Javier Sanchez, working to keep La Cocina operating, employees employed and paid and customers happy enough to return and spread the word about what a great job he and Phil Maestas are doing there. If Phil and Javier step out their front door, they can almost see Sennie Quintana, at Big Dawgs on Riverside Drive, welcoming customers inside.
Because of the bizarre and inexplicable manner in which the state Department of Health and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham order businesses to open and close, La Cocina can’t open because it’s in Rio Arriba County but Big Dawg’s can because it’s in Santa Fe County.
Española is one of those cities split by a county line. Albuquerque shares the problem to a lesser extent but the mix of population between Sandoval and Bernalillo counties is surely significant enough that bad COVID behavior in one county would affect the other.
What the Health Department and our governor are saying is, “People on this side of Riverside Drive have behaved well, gotten their infection rate down and should be rewarded by being allowed to open certain businesses. People on the other side of the street haven’t done well and must remain closed.” We all know that’s not the case.
Both Ohkay Casino and Santa Claran are open, not caring which county they’re in. We assume they’re both practicing COVID-safe practices or our numbers would not be coming down the way they are. And we mean numbers throughout 87532, which encompasses both Santa Fe and Rio Arriba counties.
Some folks in city government are under the impression 87532 is Española. Thirty thousand people comprise the zip code, which spreads through La Mesilla and San Pedro. It covers areas north toward Hernandez and Ohkay Owingeh. Santa Clara shares the zip code. So when infections in 87532 are up, know that it has almost the same amount of population as Rio Arriba County, in which 87532 sits, but not Rio Arriba County residents exclusively.
When asked about his dilemma our mayor was his usual diplomatic self.
“We want all businesses in Española to open,” he wrote in a Feb. 12 email. “COVID cases have come down throughout the state and counties, as have hospitalization rates and deaths. Businesses are following safe practice guidelines that we think should allow our economy to open up safely and gradually. The fact that Española lies in two counties with one open and the other closed adds a tremendous amount of confusion to an already difficult situation.”
Confusion has reigned supreme as the Centers for Disease Control went from “don’t wear a mask” to the governor’s, “you must wear a mask” all the way through 2020 to the weird vaccine rollout that many people across the country have found a way to get around.
Do we need 1a and 1b and there are two parts to 1b? Was it too much for state bureaucrats to just say 1, 2, 3, or A, B, C and assign one group of people to each number/letter? There are 26 letters and infinite numbers.
And beyond the weird number/letter subcategories we have people driving hundreds of miles and hours each way to go to Texas to get a vaccine because that state doesn’t have our number letter category/subcategory system. That state just wants to get vaccines distributed as quickly as possible.
We know we’re Monday morning quarterbacking and acknowledge state leaders (some anyway) know more than we mere mortals when it comes to handling health emergencies. It’s just disappointing that if they know more than us, why are we stuck with these poorly made decisions?